PEOPLE | PETS | COMMUNITY

Wings of Rescue: Let the Fur Fly!

Wings of Rescue has flown more than 26,000 pets to Safety — and they’re just getting started. 

The wingtip of the Pilatus PC-12 glinted in the late morning sun as it tilted toward the runway at Everett’s Paine Field.

This was no ordinary flight; thanks to Wings of Rescue, the small plane was carrying 132 cats from high-kill shelters in Los Angeles to shelters in Washington State, including PAWS and Seattle Humane. Also on board were cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy and Ric Browde, President of Wings of Rescue.

Wings of Rescue is a 501(c)3 charity founded in 2012 that flies endangered pets from high-intake and high-kill shelters to no-kill shelters, where they will be adopted into loving homes. Since its inception, the pilots of Wings of Rescue have flown over 26,000 pets to safety.

Ric Browde joined Wings of Rescue in 2013. “I’m a record producer, songwriter, and author by profession, and was fortunate to have some success,” he said. “In 2002, my wife and I decided it was time to give back and try to make the world a little better – and we started volunteering in shelters. We started using rock-and-roll marketing to network our pets – and were one of the first to use a combination of great photography, YouTube videos, well-written descriptions, and Facebook to market pets in high-kill shelters. We significantly boosted the adoption/rescue rates where we established the program. I came to the attention to the founder of Wings of Rescue – and he recruited me to join the organization.”

Browde’s most memorable rescues have included flights out of areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

“Not only did we fly 4,500 pets to safety from the three hurricane zones, but we brought in 128 tons of emergency humanitarian and pet relief supplies into Puerto Rico,” he recalled. “The most rewarding flights were when we reunited Puerto Rican pets with their families who were evacuated to the mainland United States. Airlines wouldn’t carry pets, so we flew our airplane to San Juan, and in conjunction with the Sato Project, we brought pets back to their families for free.”

One reunion in particular resonated with Ric. “There was a seriously crippled child in a wheelchair who had to be evacuated immediately from Puerto Rico, due to his medical condition,” he said. “He’d fallen into a semi-catatonic state and wasn’t responding to his family or anyone else for approximately two months. We flew his dog to Fort Lauderdale and as soon as I brought his crate out of the plane, the dog could sense his companion was there, and his tail was wagging like a drumbeat in his crate. The boy saw his dog pop out of the crate and came out of his shell and grabbed my arm and started trying to talk. He also grabbed his mother and pulled her wig off! Everyone who saw it, including myself, were moved to tears.”

Another memorable flight is this unordinary flight with Jackson Galaxy. “Jackson and I went to all four receiving shelters and got to meet the staff and volunteers who provide such excellent care for our precious cargo. To me, the shelter workers and volunteers are the true heroes of rescue,” he said.

Wings of Rescue flies to numerous Pacific-Northwest based organizations, including PAWS, NOAH, Kitsap Humane in Silverdale, Humane Society of Skagit Valley in Burlington, Seattle Humane, Spokanimal in Spokane, Blue Mountain Humane in Walla Walla, Oregon Humane, Brightside Humane in Redmond, Southwest Washington Humane, Humane Society of the Ochocos, Tacoma Humane, Columbia Humane in St. Helens, Oregon, Central Oregon Humane in Bend, and, Kootenai Humane Society in Coeur d’Alene Idaho. Wings of Rescue partners with overcrowded open-admission shelters throughout North America to fly pets to shelters with empty kennels.

“The pets are guaranteed safety and we make sure no local shelter pets will be displaced by the incoming pets,” Ric explained. “With very few exceptions, we don’t work directly with rescues –we want to partner with stable and reliable organizations who we know are going to be there when we need them.”

Ric hopes that Wings of Rescue will eventually become the “Maytag repairman” of organizations – that there will no longer be a need for their services.

“Einstein’s definition of insanity is to keep trying the same things over and over and expecting different results,” he said. “We know we cannot solve shelter overcrowding through transport alone. Therefore, we’re implementing spay/neuter and education programs along with working with the sending shelters to improve marketing strategies so that someday we won’t be needed.”

Wings of Rescue is an all-volunteer, donor-based charity. “None of us receive any financial compensation,” Ric said. “We have limited financial resources. We wish that we had the financial resources to fly every at-risk pet in every shelter to safety but, sadly, we don’t. Anyone who would like to help us “Let the Fur Fly” by donating can do so either online by going to www.wingsofrescue.org/donate or by mailing a check to Wings of Rescue, P.O. Box 6045, La Quinta, Ca. 92248.”

Ric added: “Wings of Rescue is looking for private pilots with their own pressurized planes to fly for us. To fly our PC-12, a pilot needs over 2,000 hours of turbine experience and to be PC-12 concurrent.”

To learn more about Wings of Rescue, visit their website here